A message from the Commissioner of Virginia Department of Social Services:
Right now in Virginia, nearly a third of the 869 foster care youth awaiting adoption are teenagers. This is why I am so excited about this year’s National Adoption Month theme: “We Never Outgrow the Need for Family”. This year, as the Virginia Social Services System continues the hard work of identifying permanent, loving families for all of Virginia’s waiting children, we will work especially hard to emphasize the need for permanent families for older youth in foster care.
Throughout the month of November, our website and social media sites will feature adoption information to assist families and adoption professionals on a weekly basis. On November 21, in honor of National Adoption Month, many local departments are hosting adoption celebrations throughout the Commonwealth. These and other events are so important because child welfare professionals, as well as prospective and current adoptive families, need relevant information regarding waiting children, the adoption process and post adoption services. Awareness is a critical component of increasing interest, understanding, and ultimately the connections made toward the goal of foster care and adoption.
Last year Governor McAuliffe appointed Debbie J. Johnston as the State Adoption Champion. This past spring, Ms. Johnson established Connecting Hearts, the Debbie J. Johnston Charity, to bring awareness to the number of foster care youth available for adoption, and the need to recruit foster-to-adopt families across Virginia. In just a short year, Connecting Hearts visited all five regions across the state to gather feedback from public and private child welfare professionals regarding barriers to adoption. Today, VDSS’ Division of Family Services, in collaboration with Connecting Hearts, is hosting the first annual Adoption Summit for adoption professionals. The summit will provide workshops on successful recruitment efforts and strategies as well as testimonials from former foster youth. Governor Terry A. McAuliffe and Secretary William A. Hazel, M.D. are attending this special event, to applaud adoption professionals for their work in finalizing adoptions for 620 children last year, and support our efforts to find permanent homes for the 869 children still awaiting adoption in Virginia.
Thank you for your efforts to help raise awareness about the adoption of children and older youth from foster care! I encourage you to visit the National Adoption Month 2015 website https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/nam/, which has adoption resources for a variety of audiences, including prospective and adoptive parents, birth parents, adopted youth and adults, and child welfare professionals. The website contains resources, stories, and videos on topics including ways to recruit families for older youth, outreach tools, and information for prospective adoptive families.
For more information about National Adoption Month and to learn about local programs and activities in your community, visit the Adoption Event Calendar, http://spark.dss.virginia.gov/divisions/dfs/ap/festivities.cgi, or contact Sondra Draper, Adoption Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I cannot thank you enough for your diligence in identifying lifelong connections for our waiting youth. This is special work that affords children the love and support they need to achieve successful outcomes as they enter adulthood. Have a great and productive National Adoption Month!